Fourteen animal deaths – one dog and 13 cats – are being attributed to the Menu Foods Inc. recall issued March 16, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Nine of those deaths were cats that fell ill during a routine, quarterly taste test Menu Foods conducted with 25 cats and 15 dogs to test the products’ palatability, the FDA said yesterday. The taste tests, which began Feb. 27, were unrelated to consumer complaints the company received a week earlier, beginning Feb. 20, of pets becoming sick after eating the products, according to Stephen Sundlof, DVM, director of the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine.
A contaminated shipment of wheat gluten used to thicken the gravy in 95 wet-style foods made by the private-label Streetsville, Ontario, pet food manufacturer, is the suspected source of illness, the FDA said. The investigation, however, is ongoing, the FDA said, and other sources are not being ruled out. Because wheat gluten is not usually a problematic source, the FDA is looking at the possibility that a mold or chemical toxin contaminated the wheat gluten, which was used by both a Kansas and New Jersey plant of Menu. So far, the effected foods, produced between Dec. 3, 2006 and March 6, have only come from the Kansas City plant.
The FDA expects additional pet deaths as the investigation unfolds, but declined to speculate on those numbers.